IMAGINARY ORDINARY: A COMMUNITY MAPPING PROJECT (2009)

Imaginary Ordinary was a four-month community mapping project created with Laura Lief (and Mia Rushton). Occupying a storefront in the historic Tigerstead Block in Calgary, AB, Imaginary Ordinary was a social networking site where different groups or individuals of all ages could meet and connect with one another. Imaginary Ordinary was a community centre—a place where everybody in the neighbourhood could come to participate in activities, share information, or simply browse and hang out.  Community centres we argued could create “maps” of a community. They have the potential to identify and connect the people who live, work, and play within a neighbourhood. Community centres are for all kinds of people, including people based on shared geography instead of shared demographics or ideals. Community centres are not so much about the physical building as the people who use the centre and the relationships that they have to each other and to their places.

Imaginary Ordinary was highly received and strongly supported by the inner-city communities of Crescent Heights and Renfrew (Regal Terrace). The project received much attention in large part due to our proximity to the community, the high profile storefront the project occupied on Centre Street North, and by the design of the storefront itself. And while the storefront operated as the primary tangible component of the project, far more significant were the ephemeral encounters that occurred in and out of the space. To facilitate these encounters and as a way of generating engagement amongst the different constituents in the communities, Imaginary Ordinary had nearly fifty programmed events, “take-away activities,” a Community in Resident series, and was open five days a week simply as a place to hang out and drink free tea and eat free cookies. It was during this later, unstructured time, that some of my most memorable engagements occurred.

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